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A word of caution. People in the church do not have the place to go up to church leaders and tell them that they are nothing. Leaders, though they are nothing, deserve respect.

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13). Paul reiterates this in 1 Timothy 5:17: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”

Everybody is to be respected. We are to respect one another. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). Peter says, “Honor everyone” (1 Peter 2:17a).

So, although everyone in the Church could truthfully be considered nothing according to Scripture, we are to respect and honor one another—everyone. However, offering respect to others does not mean that we are to consider one person better than another and put them above others. Paul tells Timothy to honor widows (1 Timothy 5:3) and exhorts the wives in the church at Ephesus to honor their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Honoring widows and husbands does not imply that they are “better” than other people.

However, it is the biblical responsibility for leaders to refer to themselves publicly and often as nothing. And act like it. There is a strangely powerful and perverse tendency in our natural selves to enjoy being preferred over other people. In addition, unfortunately, power and position are robust and enticing intoxicants. We must actively and diligently work at denying ourselves of their allure, and we do that by often professing publicly that we are nothing and asking the Lord to help us to overcome the temptations of notoriety and rank in our everyday lives and actions.

A final word. There is a strong “do” in the above exhortation. Nothing wrong with “do’s.” Scripture abounds with them. However, all that we do must be centered in our love for Jesus, a love that is greater than our love for this world, our own lives and our status. We must ask Him for a love that is greater than anything else that contends for our affection. If we ask Him for this, He will surely answer, and He will continue the process of revealing to us our true position and calling in the Church—and that we are truly nothing.

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